You Didn't Want Heaven Without Us? March 22, 2018
I’ve been asked this question a few times and thought I would take the opportunity to share my answer here. The question goes something like this:
The song we sing “What a Beautiful Name” has a line in it, “You didn’t want heaven without us / So, Jesus You brought heaven down”. This line is confusing to me since I know God is all-sufficient and doesn’t have needs. By singing this, aren’t we saying the opposite?
So many credible theologians and pastors have posted online about this; about 100x more not-so-credible have posted also. I’m only answering why we sing this song at Westover as written.
Here’s my answer:
This is a theological question regarding the Doctrine of God; or, all that we know about who He is from his revealed Word.
This is from Grudem’s theology:
God’s independence is defined as follows: God does not need us or the rest of creation for anything, yet we and the rest of creation glorify him and bring him joy. This attribute of God is sometimes called his self-existence or his aseity (from the Latin a se, which mean “from himself”).
This idea could also be described as God is non-contingent, meaning God existed before creation, therefore he is self-existent and He depends on nothing (see Isaiah 44:24).
I had the same thought when I first heard the song. While all of the song is wonderful, that line “You didn’t want heaven without us, so Jesus you brought heaven down” has garnered so much attention that everything else gets eclipsed.
I shared the song with several pastors to get their reaction before I scheduled it. After one of them listened to it I bluntly asked: “What about the line ‘You didn’t want heaven without us…?’” Answering, he referenced John 17:24, saying “Didn’t Jesus ask that we would go to be with him in heaven?” I had forgotten about that verse. So, we scheduled the song for the last Sunday in December 2016.
What does it really say?
The line in the song is negating two things: “You didn’t want heaven without us.” I think the opposite is true, and is easier to digest: “You do want heaven [to be] with us”; or maybe “You want us in heaven.” It is an assumption to conclude the writer meant Jesus wants us in heaven BECAUSE He needs us in heaven, or BECAUSE He lacks.
If God is sovereign, then the fact that we will end up in heaven will be because He wanted it. That God - who is complete, lacking nothing – desired to create at all is a mystery; furthermore, that He desired to pursue a rebellious people and redeem them at such a cost is a deep mystery.
So, two points are true: 1. God is complete; 2. God wants, or desires. These two points are throughout the Bible, yet are difficult to reconcile in our minds. That leaves me wondering (worshipping, see Ps. 139:1-6), “Why does God want me at all? What moved Him from perfect completeness to create me, then redeem me (all found in Eph. 1:4)?” I don’t know, but whatever it was, it was not in me, but in Him. He loved us, and He moved toward us, this is true.
What does the song’s writer say about it?
I don’t see the need to share articles arguing for or against the song. There are good pastors/theologians who’ve weighed in their opinion. Here’s an article written by the song’s writer discussing scriptural inspiration of the lyrics - Scriptural Inspiration Behind the Lyrics of What a Beautiful Name.
I hope this sheds some light on why we decided to lead the church with this song as written.